There’s a fantastic long-form essay on The Triffids over at Popular Demand. I wasn’t really aware of the band prior to reading it, and I suspect from the essay (and from tracking them down on youtube) that they might be too specific to the experience of living in exile and of longing for Australia for me to really get it, but I love this kind of writing more than anything. The way art and artists get tangled up in your life, altering your world in all sorts of unexpected ways. That’s what I want to read about. I’ve never understood it when your hear musicians claim (along the lines of) “of course I don’t believe that music can change the world, I’m not stupid“, when it’s blatantly obvious that music does change the world, continually. How could it not?
Anyway, Raining Pleasure is the only Triffids song I’ve fallen in love with, probably as much for its Nico-isms as for anything. But it is gorgeous.
Also, along the lines of writing about art tangling up with life, Rock Paper Shotgun have just finished a similarly fantastic diary of a game of Neptune’s Pride. It starts off fascinating, with each player manoeuvring to screw each other over and grab as much of the galaxy as possible, veers off on a hilarious tangent when Tom Francis forgets to log on (resulting in the computer taking over and going on an insane killing spree), and ends on an unexpectedly moving note as the grind and constant back-stabbing takes its toll on the remaining players. Definitely worth reading. It’s a perfect example of why games matter; it’s not about high scores or increasingly realistic graphics (and it’s not – despite the daily mail’s assurances otherwise – about killing hookers); it’s about stories. Games create stories. I don’t mean they tell you stories (though many do), I mean the way stories arise out of your interactions with the game, the AI, the other players. For me it’s probably the original Stalker that does this best, but everyone’s got their own examples.
You can see the diary here (start with part 1, obv.).
These posts are getting later and later. I’m sorry… I’ll try and do better.
The record label is now up and running, and you can buy my album from the website, though I’ve yet to do any marketing, so no-one’s bought it yet. As well as the album there’s also a wiki, which is the thing I’m most proud of – I plan on making it a huge sprawling mess of a thing, providing a kind of context and mythology for all the label’s music. There’s also some mp3s in there if you’re willing to look around.
The link’s http://www.giantbeartracks.com
I’m going to finish with this video, via RPS. Shades of the Langley Schools Music Project here – it’s the way the kids clearly feel it, without our seemingly all-pervasive irony or detachment:
Something about the sight/sound of a massed choir too*. You can see why christianity makes such use of hymns and singing. There’s something very powerful about a group of people singing together. And rare too, as capitalism alienates us ever more, only ever praising the individual.
* – Especially one not wearing matching uniforms – I think that kind of uniformity works against the choir. The point is that the singers are not homogeneous, replaceable – they’re singing the same thing, but with identical voices the effect would be vastly reduced. Each one is vital to the end result, they’re not simple cogs in a machine. I can’t help seeing it as kind of utopian; a collective of individuals.
Just finished Alan Garner’s The Owl Service, which is fantastic. I should probably track down the TV version too.
It’s exactly what I want fantasy to be – old magic and stories bleeding into our world, fierce and wild and uncanny – as opposed to what fantasy apparently means these days* – Tolkien’s curiously bloodless tales of orcs and elves and humans, repeated ad nauseum with each repetition a dilution of an already weak ancestor. The endless noble battles and last stands just feel like an inability to deal with our world. Reality is more complex, and stranger, and you don’t get absolute good and evil here. I want stories that understand this, that try and deal with it, that push in odd directions, that haunt the present, not some antiseptic imaginary world where no-one can ever get hurt and nothing is at stake.
I sometimes get the feeling that most of the events in our world are set in motion by people who buy into that fantastic good vs. evil narrative, and that kind of thinking will only ever cause suffering.
“He is hurt too much she wants to be flowers and you make her owls and she is at the hunting”
* – Tbh, I’m basing this claim on my knowledge of videogames more than fiction, given that I haven’t read any recent fantasy in a long while.
Craig’s at a stag do this week, so no meetup. Instead, some Neon Genesis Evangelion.
I saw the Evangelion remakes 1.0 and 2.0 at the GFT on Monday (first time I’ve ever been to an actual premiere!). I’d only been vaguely aware that it was getting remade until I saw the film festival listings, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Turned out the first film was more or less the same as the first few episodes of the original series, and most of the changes were fairly subtle. There were fewer lengthy pauses, the visuals were (maybe) slightly better (though as far as I’m concerned the original still looks pretty stunning – just look at the images in this post), and the music was horrible.
Hearing the music in the remakes made me realise just how much the original music meant to me. The whole way through there would be all these familiar scenes and I’d expect to hear all the little themes from the original, only to come up against some of the blandest (yet simultaneously jarring) music imaginable. I tend not to notice music in films unless it’s hideously offensive (how many crimes against humanity are the BBC going to let Murray Gold commit? It’s like they don’t have the slightest understanding of just how important the likes of Delia Derbyshire were to their programmes), or an integral part of the film (e.g. Requiem for a Dream), so this was a bad sign.
The music was probably the worst part though. The other problems I had with it were more subtle, and I probably need to see both films again to be sure how I feel. With the first film I think it comes down to the apparent decision to streamline the narrative. Without the original’s frequent pauses where nothing much happened, it felt like the film was a shallower experience than the series. You don’t get into the characters’ heads so much(?).
And a number of times the likes of Gendo and Ritsuko would come straight out with single-sentence explanations for what was going on in the plot/backstory. These were things that were only ever hinted at in the original, and to hear the mysteries explained in such an offhand manner was kind of disenchanting. Art works better as a whisper than a shout.
The second film was where the plot started to really diverge from the original. It’s hard to judge how successful that is without seeing the final 2 films (still in production), but I think there are a couple of ways in which it’s more troubling than the first film.
The introduction of an entirely new character, Mari, doesn’t seem to have any real point, other than to sideline Asuka (why Asuka of all people?). Maybe she’ll make more sense in the later films, but here I just don’t understand why she was added at all, unless… The conspiracy theory is that she was added so that Gainax(? – is Bandai involved as well?) could make more money on merchandising. Certainly, there is a lot of fan service in these films.
I know Gainax are known for their fan service, but I honestly didn’t notice it in the original series. In the films it’s incredibly blatant though, and more than just being unnecessary I think it actively detracts from the story.
The other thing in the second film is the shifting of the main romantic element from Asuka-Shinji to Rei-Shinji. It’s another thing you can’t really judge without seeing the final 2 films, and it’ll probably be resolved, but I like Asuka (dammit!). I don’t like seeing her pushed aside like this.
Overall, the new films just feel less subtle than the original series. It’s hard to put my finger on what’s missing – it’s still Evangelion – but it feels like something (possibly fundamental) has changed. It’s a bit like the Lord of the Rings movies – it’s hard to say what’s wrong with them (other than Liv Tyler – jesus!), but there’s definitely something not right about them, something that makes them soulless. Actually, the Evangelion films are still far better than the Lord of the Rings films. At least they take risks.
Anyway, sorry about the clumsy film review for this week’s post. I’ll try and think of something more interesting to write about next week.
Still working on the EP. Here’s what we ate this week:
Veggie sausage and mash, with a very nice peppercorn sauce courtesy of Craig. We also finished watching The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi last night. Next up; FLCL!
I’ve been listening to a lot of Northern Soul lately, and right on cue, Gil Scott Heron’s back (okay, so I know he’s not exactly Northern Soul, but he is definitely soul…). I’ve never really got the appeal of Robert Johnson before, but his cover of Me and the Devil is stunning:
And I know he’s mostly known for his spoken word stuff, being the godfather of rap and all that, but I’ve always preferred his soul tracks. I mean, just listen to this:
And to come back to Northern Soul:
I almost couldn’t do it
how could I put you through it?
followed by the female “I love you baby, I need you baby” are heartbreaking. Anyway, February is clearly soul-month round here…
I’m going to finish with a documentary (via here) which will make you happy (unless you have no soul):